John McVey was born and raised in Princeton, NJ. His father was a Princeton University alumnus who worked for the Princeton Press, buying and selling books worldwide. When McVey was three, his father suddenly took ill and died while overseas on a business trip. Along with his two older sisters, McVey was raised by his mother. He cites his father's death and his mother's extreme creativity as the most powerful influences on his artistic life. Later, his sisters brought into the house the records that would shape his tastes and set him on a crash course toward the music business.
When John McVey decided to become a full-time musician, he kicked down the doors of the songwriting community. In 1995, he left a job, a girlfriend, and a stable situation in New Jersey for the life of a Nashville songwriter. An invitation to perform in a showcase at the renowned Bluebird Cafe soon followed, and he instantly became a regular performer there. The next year, he was a New Folk winner at the Kerrville Folk Festival, the highest pedigree for today's songwriters, and by the end of 1996, he was selected Acoustic Artist of the Year by the National Academy of Songwriters.
Awards help an artist become part of the insider crowd in the acoustic music world, but it is getting on the stage that wins fans. McVey is an admirable performer. His guitar playing is unconventional and strongly rhythmic, using the entire fretboard but leaving plenty of space for his voice to shine in front. That voice, exquisite and captivating in its high range, passionate and muscular below, may be McVey's greatest tool. The voice fills the most cavernous room, but McVey also uses it in quiet passages to connect with his audience, asking them to lean in and be a part of the song.
McVey's touring schedule since 1995 has been quite extensive. He spent close to a year on the road with RCA Recording artist Lari White, playing for audiences as large as 40,000. Since then, he has played about 150 solo dates a year and circled the country many times.
Circle of Friends was McVey's 1994 debut recording. It was released by BWE Music, an independent label in Utah, in 1997. The CD was played in more than 50 radio markets, and its songs still find themselves on AAA, folk, and pop stations. The fall 2000 release, Jigsaw, brought together many of the same musicians who made Circle of Friends a critical favorite. At the center of both pieces is producer Alain Mallet, who has also worked with Vance Gilbert, the Story, and Jonatha Brooke, and toured with Paul Simon.
In addition to working on his own performing and recording, McVey has continued to lend his voice to other projects, including guesting on Jonatha Brooke's first solo release on Blue Thumb, Plumb. Collaborations with Emmy-winning composers Sam Cardon and Kurt Bestor have led McVey to recording work in the publishing, film, and television fields.